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Hardware Review: Promise SmartStor NS4600 – Part I

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This is a series of posts on the Promise SmartStor NS4600 home storage server.

Background

Promise Technology Inc have been manufacturing RAID controllers since 1988 and iSCSI storage systems since 2004.  In 2007, the company released the first of the SmartStor devices, the NS4300, a fully-functioned home NAS storage array.  That was followed up in 2009 with the second generation NS4600.  I must admit I’m not at all familiar with their products, however Promise have provided me two NS4600 units for a short term evaluation.  The home NAS server market has become pretty competitive, with lots of features built into todays’ hardware.  What made the NS4600 interesting is the ability to backup between devices; something we will cover in these posts.  The ability to replicate to another unit will make it compelling for those advanced users who have large volumes of data to secure.

The NSx600 range are classed as high performance SOHO or home NAS devices and have the following specifications:

  • Processor: Intel EP80579 600Mhz
  • Memory: 256MB DDRII
  • 1x GbE port
  • 1x eSATA port
  • 2x USB ports
  • Four 3.5″ SATA drive slots
  • Promise PDC42819 SATA RAID Controller

The device itself is pretty solid despite feeling quite light without the drives installed.  In terms of design, the unit looks quite attractive, with blue LEDs on the front, showing drive and network activity.  Drives are installed behind a single door in a horizontal fashion and are required to be mounted in small caddies.  These are screwed to the drive itself and aren’t large and provide the runners for correct insertion.  Drives are hot-pluggable while the unit is running.

At the rear of the unit, there are the network connections and power socket for the integrated power supply.  There’s also a power button for turning the unit on and off.  For cooling, there’s an integrated fan;

this kicks out a reasonable amount of heat when all four drive slots are occupied.  Although we’ll touch on software and management later, it’s worth mentioning here that the device (or enclosure as it is described) can be monitored through the built-in web server interface.  Screen shots are included at the end of this post and show the power, fan and temperature metrics being tracked.  I like this feature; it provides that extra level of information needed when doing problem determination.

Overall, the the NS4600 hardware is pretty cool.  In future posts, we’ll discuss software features and management.

Disclaimer: Promise have provided me with two NS4600 devices for this review.  These devices will be returned at the end of this period.  This is an independent review and has not been sponsored or paid for by Promise.

About Chris M Evans

Chris M Evans has worked in the technology industry since 1987, starting as a systems programmer on the IBM mainframe platform, while retaining an interest in storage. After working abroad, he co-founded an Internet-based music distribution company during the .com era, returning to consultancy in the new millennium. In 2009 Chris co-founded Langton Blue Ltd (www.langtonblue.com), a boutique consultancy firm focused on delivering business benefit through efficient technology deployments. Chris writes a popular blog at http://blog.architecting.it, attends many conferences and invitation-only events and can be found providing regular industry contributions through Twitter (@chrismevans) and other social media outlets.
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